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Hotels Discover the Upscale Woman

September 3, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A woman lobbyist who travels frequently leaves the bathroom lights on all night in her hotel room.

A woman journalist says she bars the double-locked door with a chair snared against the knob.

A woman corporate executive says she always leaves the television on in her room when she travels alone.

For years, when business women traveled by themselves they were shown to a tiny table in a dark corner by the kitchen door in the hotel restaurant. So after a while many of them ended up just calling room service to bring up their dinners.

With the rising numbers of women in business and government who must travel, hotels now are more sensitive to their safety and comfort.

And, according to the American Hotel-Motel Association, men who travel frequently are pleased with the new luxurious amenities.

At the upscale Morrison House, in nearby Alexandria, Va., for instance, Richard, one of six butlers, serves English tea in the mid-afternoon in the parlor.

There is no bar in the federal-style brick hotel. Mixed drinks may be ordered in the parlor and they are served by the butlers.

″That takes the onus off women who just don’t feel right about walking into a hotel bar alone,″ said Pat Duricka, who must travel often in her job as a publicist for a Washington trade association.

″Women feel intimidated by a bar,″ agreed Mary Ann Lundgren, who travels to New York City in her job as owner of a Washington-based marketing firm.

In the twin dining rooms, decorated in cool peach and gray colors, are engraved silver service, Baccarat chandeliers and butlers who have been schooled by the owners to treat guests, male and female, with equal respect.

For security, all room keys are affixed with computerized codes. Every time a room is opened, a printout appears at the main desk, tracing who the key was assigned to, and how long the user stayed in the room. The hallways are wide, well lighted and painted a pastel gray.

″We are looking for the upscale customer,″ acknowledged builder Robert T. Morrison, who owns the month-old 47-room hotel along with his wife, Rosemary. Rooms range from $115 to $330 a night.

A spokesman for the American Hotel-Motel Association, Steven Trombetti, said women accounted for 37 percent of the $61 billion spent by business travelers in 1984. And, he said, it is forecast that in two years female business travelers will equal the number of men who hit the road for their companies.

If a woman has risen to the point that she travels for her company she is often an executive or a trusted employee so she has reached a career level where she does not have to stay in economy hotels, Trombetti said. ″She stays in luxury hotels and can spend more to have someone carry her bags and dine well.″

Overall, there is a trend across the country for travelers to check into the more luxurious hotels.

″People have more money to spend because of the upswing in the economy,″ said Trombetti. ″They have have disposable dollars and they want to pamper themselves.″

Also, because of the frequest flyer programs offered by airlines, people have more dollars to spend on a fancy hotel room, with flowers, fruit, wine and chocolate thrown in, Trombetti said.

He said luxury and economy hotels are the fastest growing segments of the industry. Currently, 15 percent - or 2.1 million - of all hotel rooms are rated as ″luxurious.″ By the end of the year, that will rise to 18 percent, he said.

Women who travel by themselves often prefer to eat their breakfasts and dinners at the hotel where they stay so they will not have to wander unfamiliar streets alone looking for a suitable restaurant.

″Women business travelers started the trend for putting parlors in hotels and serving tea in the British fashion ... They didn’t like the ruckus of hotel bars, and it ended up that men enjoyed the tradition just as much,″ said Trombetti. ″It is a return to former elegance, and a way to slow things down.″

A harp is played at the Berkshire Hotel in Manhattan. A string quartet plays at the Plaza in New York.

There are ″Captain’s Tables″ where unaccompanied guests can dine together at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, the Lowes Anatole in Dallas and the Buena Vista Palace in Orlando, Fla.

″Room designs have also changed. Hotels put in full length mirrors, hair driers and makeup mirrors, and guys are saying ’Hey, I like those things too,‴ said Trombetti.

He said hotels put skirt hangers in the closets, and men used them to hang up their pants.

Compri Hotels, based in Phoenix, Ariz., sends out questionnaires to customers to determine what magazines or newspapers they read, or if they need an ironing board, Trombetti said. With those items already in the room, there is no need to scour the streets of a strange city looking for a favorite publication.

Trombetti also said waiters are getting instructions not to automatically seat an unaccompanied women to a hidden-away table. Women are to be given a choice of tables. And, some hotels have even installed special lights at tables if a lone diner wants spend his or her time reading before the food comes.

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